Sacramento Republic traveled to Phoenix in search of three points and in need of a good performance. What the team found received was its second loss in the last three games and one of the worst performances of the year.
Republic Head Coach Paul Buckle made a bold choice and sent his team out in a 5-3-2 formation.
Saturday was not the first time Buckle had utilized the 5-3-2. He had previously used it briefly earlier in the season to rave reviews, but went in another direction shortly afterwards.
Phoenix Rising started the match off by putting Republic under immediate pressure and trying to make the most of its home field advantage. It did not take too long for the home side to reap the rewards of that pressure.
Chris Cortex finished a corner kick in the 10th minute to give his team an early advantage.
Cortez beat Republic center back Carlos Rodriguez to the ball and sent a well deflected header past Evan Newton and into the back of the net.
Phoenix continued to be the more dangerous team throughout the first half hour, forcing Republic onto the back foot for most of that period. However, Republic slowly fought back to slightly even footing as the half went on.
Republic’s first exciting moment in Phoenix’s defensive end was a driven shot from distance by Emrah Klimenta. Although Klimenta has shown the ability to score from distance previously, his shot went wide for a goal kick.
The first yellow cards of the match came in the 37th and 38th minutes, the first to Republic’s Hayden Partain and the second to Phoenix’s Kody Wakasa.
Although Republic were unable to put together many solid attacking moves for the final 15 minutes of the first half, the Quails had many periods of sustained possession and were able to pin Phoenix back into its own defensive half.
Paul Buckle made a pair of substitutions at the half, bringing on Trevin Caesar and Matt Wiesenfarth for Carlos Rodriguez and Wilson Kneeshaw. The substitutions put an end to the 5-3-2 experiment in favor of Republic’s more familiar formation. Why Buckle chose to try out a drastically new formation on the road only to abandon it 45 minutes in is unknown.
If the end of the first half was a little boring, the beginning of the second more than made up for it with a flurry of goals. Unfortunately for the Quails, they were on the receiving end for the majority of the goals.
JJ Johnson doubled Phoenix’s lead in the 48th minute on a superbly executed counter attack.
Republic then struck back with a goal from Caesar in the 50th minute to bring the deficit to one once again.
Just as Republic fans were finished celebrating Caesar’s seventh goal of the season, Phoenix’s Peter Ramage scored another for the home team.
The goal was the second of the night that Republic conceded on a set piece, both largely attributable to individual poor play. This time it was Newton’s poor attempted clearance of the initial service that led to the goal. Phoenix did well to take advantage of the situation, but a better play from Newton would have cut out the danger entirely.
The quick sequence of goals left many fans in a state of shock after experiencing feelings of elation sandwiched by disappointment. Almost as if somebody slapped you in the face, gave you a hug, then punched you in the gut.
Republic’s final substitution of the match was a frequently seen variation of the Paul Buckle special, bringing on a forward (Harry Williams in this case) for a defender (Emrah Klimenta).
The rest of the second half was largely a repeat of the first, with Republic trying all they could to find a goal but ultimately coming up empty. Despite Republic never really seeming to give up, the team never looked as though they were going to get one goal back, much less two.
With the loss, Republic are winless in three games and have taken only one point of a possible nine in that stretch. Republic’s next opportunity to turn that around is next Saturday’s match against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC at Papa Murphy’s Park.